Pitfalls for using WordPress on Church Websites

What are the top three WordPress pitfalls people face when building a church website?

WordPress pitfalls? Wait, isn’t WordPress supposed to be wonderful? Yes. And it is. But then, taking a road through the Rocky Mountains is gorgeous and worthwhile — and you still need to be careful driving!

It’s the same principle with building a website. Below is a quick and painless way to educate yourself on the biggest WordPress pitfalls — and how to avoid them.

Pitfall #1: Failure to Mitigate WordPress Security Risks

Top pitfall, far and away, is security. You’ve probably heard horror stories of online villainy and scoundrelism, like when a church near Coopersville, Michigan, had its homepage defaced by ISIL. You’ve probably thought, “That’ll never happen to us.” Well — that’s probably what they thought.

First off, realize that security is about “risk reduction, not risk elimination.” Security is not only the job of your web host; it’s actually both their job and yours. WordPress is a content management system, designed to do just that — let you manage your content. (Does that smell like responsibility? Yup — ’cause it is.) There are actually many simple steps you can take to bolster your website’s security, by implementing the right “people, processes, and technology.”

Use strong passwords, trusted plugins, secure servers (ahem, free WiFi at your favorite coffee shop is not secure), and web hosting companies of exceptional veracity and fidelity: these are key weapons against malevolent technological bandits.

Here’s another weapon: update WordPress whenever WordPress offers updates. They’re there for good reason. Take advantage of them.

Perhaps most importantly, you need to back up your site. Then, even if your site does get hacked, it can be up and running again within hours, instead of weeks. Regular automated website backups are a cornerstone of website security.

Which brings us to the next pitfall.

Pitfall #2: Hosting MP3s on the Same Server as WordPress

If you offer your church’s sermons through your site, routinely backing up the dozens or hundreds of 30MB MP3 files presents a big problem. The solution is simpler than might appear: you can host your MP3s in the cloud. Amazon S3, for example, has triple-redundant storage. Storing in the cloud means you won’t need to need to include all those audio files when you back up your site.

Pitfall #3: “Once-and-Done” Mindset

Specifically, a “once-and-done” mindset vs. a “continual improvement” mindset. Don’t think of your website like a brochure: we got it printed, so it’s done! Unlike print material, where if it’s done, it stays done, a website needs your attention — not once, but consistently.

Think of your website like a garden: creating and planting it is the hardest, but afterwards it’ll still need weeding and watering to keep it healthy. Websites are similar. After they’re built, they don’t need the intensive creative work like at first, but it’ll still need weeding and watering — I mean updating and maintenance. Not only because your site visitors want to see something fresh, but because the web world is changing around your site.

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